Little Rogue’s sister venue brings a taste of Asian-inspired baking to Drewery Lane.
This would be a pretty quiet corner of Melbourne's CBD if it wasn't for Little Rogue's steady stream of loyal customers. The not-so-hidden gem took the city's coffee scene by storm in 2015 and has since become a favourite for its range of specialty drinks. Now, just across the laneway, its founders are taking on a new challenge: Japanese- and Korean-inspired baking.
Co-owner Jen Lee makes this sound like a perfectly natural transition. "Little Rogue was getting suppliers from other bakeries, but then we came to a point where maybe we could do this by ourselves," Lee told Concrete Playground. Bakemono then came to be in February of 2020, thanks to the patisserie experience of co-founder Calvin Ko.
Walking into Bakemono is a completely different experience compared to Little Rogue. Where Little Rogue draws you in with its quaint charm and cosy interior, Bakemono is an expansive space with industrial steel frame windows and generous, lofty ceilings; inside, you're surrounded by the smell of freshly baked pastries.
You'll find a variety of sweet and savoury offerings, including fruit danishes, a trusty ham and cheese croissant and a zesty almond and yuzu version as well. If you're after a smaller bite, grab a canelé — a rum- and vanilla-flavoured pastry with a crispy crust and a smooth, buttery custard centre. It's quite popular in Japan.
Also on offer is shokupan, a soft and milky loaf of Japanese bread. Some have touted that shokupan will be the sourdough of 2021, and Bakemono is a great place to make that leap if you haven't already. Take the whole loaf home, slice it and toast it for a tasty snack.
However, none of these dishes are Lee's personal favourite. She prefers the croffles — a cross between a croissant and waffle. "They're just crispy and slightly sweet, buttery and hot — very addictive," says Lee. "We have four different flavours, but I think the plain is probably the best to me."
Croffles are increasingly popular in Korea thanks to K-pop idol Kang Min-kyung, and, in a sense, Bakemono is hopping onto the bandwagon here. The other Korean street food trend it has picked up on involves a bread roll filled with slightly sweet cream cheese and dipped in garlic butter — a new take on the old classic, garlic bread.
"We got these inspirations from Korean and Japanese bakeries that were doing well with these products, and we thought that they would do well here as well," says Lee.
Lee stresses that Bakemono is still very new to the bakery scene, so she is tentative about future offerings. Still, she is excited to test more seasonal fruits such as grapes, and also hints at a Christmas special: "maybe fruit pies," she says.
For now though, Lee is gearing up to welcome customers back to the store after lockdown, which'll mean reconfiguring the space for dine-in again. If you do get a seat, be sure to grab coffee there too, courtesy of Small Batch.
Images: Parker Blain